Among the flora of Manhattan’s endangered Elizabeth Street Garden, designer Maxwell Osborne (co-founder of pioneering menswear label Public School) imagined a “greenhouse” for the launch of Belvedere Organic Infusions, the premium vodka brand’s new certified-organic range. Osborne’s open-air structure—filled with lemon sculptures composed of recycled cotton fabric—channeled the ethos of the event, one dedicated to sustainability. Osborne’s work, alongside a greenhouse each from chef Kwame Onwuachi and florist Original Rose, is now ticketed for general entry.
“This is something I typically wouldn’t do, but then when they talked about the initiative and what their footprint will be going forward, and how it aligned with us, it made sense for us to do,” Osborne tells us among the verdant patch of SoHo. “We are all about sustainability. For Public School, we’ve actually taken the hard steps to make that happen within our brand and how we live our lives.” Osborne adds that seeing this initiative come from a liquor brand is also exciting.
Belvedere tapped the designer to provide concepts for a greenhouse, based upon the “Lemon & Basil with a touch of Elderflower” Organic Infusion. He ruminated on the beloved outdoor garden space. He also looked toward the Kusama exhibit in the New York Botanical Garden and the sculptural Kathleen Ryan exhibit at KARMA gallery, that ended in June. His approach was to take this inspiration and give it life in the garden.
“We’ve developed this recycled cotton called Version Tomorrow, under Public School, that we used to make these lemons for the lemon tree,” he continues. “This event lives, then everything gets broken down. We were like, ‘How can we make things live longer?’ Again, it’s the idea of sustainability and eco-consciousness. After the event, we wanted something that lived past it—something that keeps living. That was the approach we wanted to give.”
Last year, Osborne softly launched An Only Child. “It’s a brand with the same ethos as what we do at Public School and what we are doing here for the Belvedere event,” he says. “It’s about scouring factory floors for fabric and building something new again.”
“Being an only child isn’t about being alone, it’s also about making do with what you have—even if that’s inventing an alter-ego or an invisible friend,” he continues. “You entertained yourself somehow. That’s what we are doing. We are using what we have on this Earth that’s already made. We do not need to produce more fabric. We do not need to produce more things. But we can take what’s already there and upcycle it—we can take deadstock fabric and make something new again. That’s what An Only Child represents.”
In many ways, with An Only Child, once again, Osborne steers an industry toward more sustainable practices—leading by example. With Public School and Version Tomorrow, however, he’s providing the tools. “With Public School, we are trying to change the industry,'” he says. “With Version Tomorrow, we sell our fabric to other, bigger brands. It’s not about us holding on to something. If we have a formula, everyone should have it because we all need to breathe this air.”
Osborne’s finally starting to feel inspired again. “It was very hard for a long time,” he says. “I couldn’t look at the books in my house anymore. I’ve always looked at inspiration from people, energy, streets, traveling. With the pandemic, I couldn’t do any of that. I was in a dark place. Now, it’s working on things like this. The fact that we are here. This is giving me inspiration, working on this project that had us turn our heads and make us think differently about designing a space.” And as cocktails flowed around the greenhouse, all three Belvedere Organic Infusions had an opportunity to demonstrate that their flavors—drawn from organic fruits and herbs—aligned with the vibrance observed all around.
Images courtesy of Matteo Prandoni/Yvonne TNT for BFA